Why I Left Instagram

A huge thank you to Francesca and Alisa for sending me this post after I managed to corrupt my entire database and the backup didn’t have my latest one saved!

I’m feeling so disillusioned with Instagram and social media in general at the moment. I’ve had an Instagram account since 2014, but I have never really used it a huge amount. I closed it off today for the following reasons:

1. Instagram is now owned by Facebook

Posts don’t appear in chronological order any longer. Facebook uses their “magical algorithm” to sort pictures in order of what you (supposedly) find important/interesting. This is probably the same algorithm they use on Facebook that meant I missed two pregnancy announcements and a mum I know going into hospital for breast surgery. Yeah, nice one, thanks Facebook! I have no control over whether they even show pictures to me from the friends I follow. This seems crazy to me.

2. Instagram is the worst place for comparison

If there is something that you like to do, there is someone out there doing it much better than you on Instagram. Whether it’s drawing, photography or fitness, instagram has hundreds of people creating stunning photos in your subject area that will make you feel like what you are doing is not worth it because it cannot compare. I don’t think this is healthy for creativity. Following experts can definitely be inspirational and motivating, but on instagram there are so many people to follow that it can begin to feel like there’s no point in even starting. Sometimes you need to just create, rather than consume. Sometimes you need to find your place in the world before you start checking out what everyone else is doing.

3. And again, there’s always comparison

Facebook is also guilty of this (and Facebook is something I plan to extricate myself from), but it can be quite demoralising when you’re having a shitty day and all you see from your friends are amazing holiday pictures, wonderful family meet-ups, and perfect family walks. Inevitably you are seeing other people’s highlight reel and comparing that to your ordinary day at home/work. Not fun. I love to see what my friends are up to, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it can seem that everyone is out doing something exciting apart from me, and as a mum of three I have enough guilt in my life without piling more on because I didn’t get my kids out in the rain or do an afternoon of inventive and original art and crafts.

4. You can’t keep Instagram and Facebook separate

This ties in with number one, but it is now impossible to have an Instagram account without all your facebook friends knowing about it. Maybe you want to document your weight loss journey and connect with like-minded people. Maybe you are gay and want to connect with others who haven’t come out yet. Well forget about using Instagram to build a separate virtual support network because Facebook sends everyone you know a notification that you are on Instagram as your-username. Even if you do not link to Facebook, it still knows. The apps seem to share data on your phone, so just having both installed gives you away. It’s creepy, but if you google it you will find the desperate measures people have gone to to have a secret account, to the point of having a separate phone and sim so they are not connected. Instagram and Facebook may as well be the same platform if they are going to operate this way.

5. It wastes time

Recently I have found myself indulging in social media far more often than I should be. I find that I just keep scrolling and scrolling and I’m not even really sure why I’m doing it. How much time, I wonder, does it really consume in our day and in our heads? What else could we be doing with that time and that mental capacity? Paying more attention to our kids, reading a book, or maybe even writing a book!

6. I quite like photography

I have a wonderful camera and I love to take photos. With Instagram it’s easy to snap a photo with an old iPhone, crop it, apply some filters and come up with something lovely. That’s great! But for me, I’d rather be taking photos and learning more about how to make images look pretty with my camera. I think using Instagram to make nice photos is all well and good, but it makes me lazy, when I could be developing my creativity in other ways.

7. Sponsored posts

So. Many. Adverts.

Annoying!

8. Am I providing anything of value?

This is probably my biggest reason at the moment. When I think about why I post pictures to Instagram, what is the answer? By adding my pictures to Instagram am I providing anything of any value to anyone else? My relatives don’t use it, so they can’t keep up with pictures of the kids. And as time goes on I’ve been more concerned about the fact that my children are growing up in a generation where everyone’s lives have been shared online since birth. Do I want that for my kids? But if I don’t post family pictures, why am I posting? To let people know what I’m doing? To showcase my skills? It isn’t really either of these. I suppose if I’m truly honest with myself it’s because I feel I need to join in the noise of sharing things. I’m doing it because everyone else is. That’s not what I want to be doing anything for.

I said goodbye to my Instagram accounts today, permanently deleted them, and deleted the app off my phone. I also deleted snapchat. It’s one less distraction in a life full of distractions that I am working to minimise, and it feels good to have made the decision to stay away. I feel lighter for it, even though there are some people I only keep up with through Instagram. Spreading my attention around so many different platforms doesn’t help me stay focused on my goals.

I want my focus to be mainly on blogging here, as a way of sharing. It’s always been my favourite way to share online and through blogging I have met some wonderful people. I find it more personal, more genuine, and my blog is totally under my control and doesn’t use some crazy algorithm to only show you the most “relevant” posts. I’ve blogged on and off for years, and I think I’d rather do this than use any other platform, so this is where you’ll find me 🙂

Social Media, Blogging and The Best Use of it All

For a long time I’ve scrutinised my use of the internet, wondering if it really is enhancing my life, or just taking up time I could spend doing other things. At the moment I’m stuck in a kind of limbo over how to manage it all.

We’ve cleared out so much stuff over the last few weeks – it’s moved our decluttering onto a new level to be honest. And inevitably, with the increased sense of space and clarity around us, I notice more the things that feel cluttered and unmanaged.

My internet time is one of those things. I use lots of sites, but only a little bit, if that makes sense. I have a handful of friends on Facebook (less than 40 I think). I follow some folks on Instagram (mainly raw food and yoga types). I use twitter infrequently, but more ‘professionally’ and it tends to be full of software related people. I’m on LinkedIn. I blog here, plus I have a currently unused blog on minimalism. I’ve wanted to create a writing blog for ages (and do more writing). I have a professional blog, which I’ve just announced a sabbatical on (the weekly newsletter has now ended as I’m home with the boys for the summer, and the baby is due November, so I have little interest in maintaining it right now).

It’s all a bit piecemeal and bitty.

I’ve toyed for a long time with creating a single, personal blog, that I can just use for everything, and link all the other accounts to. But then…

Do I really want my in-laws reading the same things as my work colleagues and as my friends?? Would people even be interested?

No – there are different audiences for different things.

But then I think – but I’m me, regardless of that. Surely I shouldn’t have to only show certain parts of my personality to certain people. That almost feels deceptive.

So then I wonder, perhaps all this social and linking stuff is overrated. Maybe I should focus on real-life relationships and stop putting myself out there. I mean, why do I do this at all? What do I get from it?

And then I think about the incredible support I’ve received online, and the connections I’ve made with like-minded people that I would never have met otherwise. And the journeys that I’ve been able to follow and even become emotionally invested in, and it becomes clear that connections are a good thing. That they can help you find people in the world who will support your goals, and even agree with them, or even join you, when your local family and friends might not understand why you would even want to do them in the first place.

But how to manage it all??

It’s causing me discomfort. I don’t like the way it’s all spread across loads of different platforms, and I seem to have to segregate aspects of my life for different audiences. I hate all the apps on my phone! I deleted loads of them a few weeks back, but I still have far too many.

In part, I think it’s down to the fact that, as with all of us, there are many different aspects to my personality – I love programming, software, computers, gaming, but I also love minimalism and get excited about organising. I’m into health and nutrition. I have a family and adore my kids. I love to write, and have had work published and would love to spend more time on that. I love to travel (even though we haven’t for years).

Some people seem to focus on one thing, and they become famous for it. Whether it’s raw food, yoga, software, or minimalism, that is their “niche”. I find it impossible to commit for one thing for any length of time!

Sigh.

And Facebook just feels so soul-less at the moment. Most of what I see in my feed are other people’s likes, and shares, which is fine, but I miss the days of knowing what people where thinking about, talking about and eating for dinner. Facebook used to be about the person, but now it’s more like a news-stream. That’s fine, things change, but I miss that part of it. I’ve also noticed that Facebook is becoming more like twitter – I had a look at my friends’ profiles last night and I was astounded at how many people some of them were connected to. When I left Facebook a couple of years back, most people had around 100 connections. Now a lot of the people I know are topping 400+ people. Perhaps the problem is I am using Facebook in the wrong way? That it is much less personal now and I’m ignoring friend requests and connections because I’m still stuck in the “you have to be a proper friend” line of thought. After all, I follow a few hundred people on twitter, so why should Facebook be different?

I’m rambling now, and getting off point.

The point is: I want a clean, simple, solution to being online.

I don’t want to have to check different websites, and I don’t want to feel that I’m scattered all over the place. I want to be genuinely me, to everyone, so that I can be confident that if they are still interested in me, it’s because they ARE interested in me.

But also, I don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades, with no focus.

I just don’t know how to bring all the threads together.

Maybe part of the problem here is that I am still not certain what I want to be doing with my life.

Since I left paid work, I’ve wanted to earn money – somehow – but haven’t been able to pin down anything sustainable that is flexible enough to suit me. I’m not even sure what field I want to be in. Do I still want to program? Write software? Or do I want to focus on writing, finally? Do I want to be freelance, or just turn up and get paid by someone else?

I don’t even really know the answers to these questions, and perhaps that is part of the problem. Part of me keeps thinking I should be earning money online somehow or other, but then I know how transient and difficult that can be.

I really just don’t know what to do at the moment. I love to write, to connect with others and to blog, but I need a more efficient way of doing all of it. I want to be, more than I ever have, authentically me to everyone I know, but I’m not sure how to go about it and I’m frightened that some people will think I’m weird/crazy/boring/stupid/ or worst of all, not worth bothering with at all (sob!).

I have a domain, faye.tv, that I’ve owned for years and years. There’s nothing on it, but I love it, and it’s my little corner of the internet. I kind of want it to be my central place, where everyone knows they can find me. But I’m also scared of what people will think of me. And to a certain extent, what the hell would I write about that anyone would want to read anyway?? I do feel that I suffer from a lack of confidence in who I really am.

I am afraid (and have always been), that I am not as good as other people, as worthy as other people, or even just as interesting as other people. I’ve lived with a lifelong fear that my life isn’t interesting or glamorous enough. As a family, we are neither rich, nor hugely successful in the traditional sense of the words. We don’t go on expensive holidays, we don’t have hundreds of friends or a bursting social calendar. We especially do not have a dedicated family network (something I have always been very self-conscious of). I come from a highly dysfunctional background (drug addiction, schizophrenia, depression, suicide, abuse, the lot) and unlike most of the friends I have made in my 40 years on this planet, I don’t spent any significant time with family members. My husband comes from a very small family that he is not close to. We are basically bereft of that whole side of life. I’ve spent years trying to pretend otherwise.

Maybe it’s because of this that I spend so much of my time online. Reading and researching (because I never had a parent to teach me as I was growing up), sharing and exploring, and pouring my heart out into open digital space. Consequently, I’m kind of spread all over the place, in lots of nooks and crannies.

I want a single solution. A single, streamlined approach to sharing my thoughts, my photos, my writing, my life.

Why do I want to share?

I thought about this question a lot over the last few days. What drives our need to share what we do?

Sharing is a way of connecting. We want to connect, we want people to like us, so we share in the hope that they will like us. Often that means sharing turns into ‘peacocking’ where photos and status posts are all about how great things are and how wonderful everything is and hey, check out my new designer bag and the cruise I’ve just booked…

That’s not what I’m interested in. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad with what I share. But I do want to be a better, more open, person, and part of my failure to commit fully to any one platform is that I don’t have the confidence that I’m worthy of it.

I also would like a way to record what we do as a family – a kind of online journal of our weekends, holidays, and ordinary days. The little snippets of conversation that make me laugh and the photos that make my heart sing.

I basically want my whole digital life to be centralised from a single hub.

And then, as soon as all these feelings threaten to overwhelm me enough to be the catalyst for action, I feel fear. Fear that I don’t want to share myself with anyone because I will be judged. I remember my father telling me that he thought my blog (in 2006) was “kind of private”. At the time I was writing from America because I wanted to keep in touch with people back home. The fact that he seemed to disapprove of airing my thoughts – which weren’t particularly soul-searching or private – made me feel small and sad and like what I was doing was wrong.

🙁

But I do feel a change coming. I want to get this sorted out, and clear up all my scattered and far-flung digital profiles and half-started digital projects.

As the house we live in becomes ever more clear, I see with more clarity how things eat up our time, and how all of our ‘commitments’, from Facebook (because it is a commitment) to blogging to caring for our houses and possessions, right down to our regular jobs and daily/weekly/monthly chores, reduce the space and creativity for what we are really passionate about doing.

I want to build a life that I feel no shame in telling other people about. I want to create, not to endlessly consume. I want to share what I learn with others.

I want my use of the internet to be easy, genuine, and fun.

I just have to figure out how.

Quitting Facebook Part 4 – Life After Facebook

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

quitting facebook

The first time I went back to my news feed after unfriending everybody (I logged in to check for final messages), I was stunned.

No stories.

Suddenly it hit me in full force – I actually had no way of knowing what anybody was up to unless:

a) I texted/emailed/called and asked (a bit odd), or
b) I suffered the humiliation of admitting I was returning only 48 hours after announcing my intention to leave.

But actually, later that day I noticed a new feeling settle in. It was… relaxation.

I couldn’t find out what was going on. So I didn’t need to. And suddenly everything seemed much easier and freer and I realised that I might actually start looking forward to meeting up with people more. As I said in lessons learnt, meeting people in real life gives you a much truer picture of who they really are.

Two Months Later

The funniest thing about walking away from facebook was that as part of quitting I exchanged contact details with a lot of people that I only spoke to via the site, but I haven’t contacted any of them (and they haven’t contacted me) since.

I fully believed I would keep in touch with them. They were all geographically distant friends from the past that I had reconnected with, but as soon as facebook was out of my life, they literally faded back into the past.

And I realised that actually, that was really where they belonged.

On the other hand, I have had more contact with other friends – it is almost as though facebook was a poor substitute that was hindering the emails, texts and even letters – yes handwritten letters – that mean so much more than just status updates, likes and comments.

Basically, my social relationships feel more meaningful now.

Facebook and Happiness

One of the reasons I wanted to leave facebook, was the fact that you inevitably end up comparing your real life to everyone else’s edited highlights.

This is also reported here after a study was published that suggests that using facebook really does make you feel worse.

I can completely understand why this is the case – seeing the fun, exciting, entertaining, non-stop activity from a large news feed is obviously going to make your own life seem quiet and mundane on multiple occasions. Every time you log in, someone, somewhere has done something exciting while you’ve just been watching TV or cleaning the bath.

I don’t think it is healthy to frame your own existence in the same light as the 75+ new status updates that have appeared since you last checked your feed.

Missing Out?

A few times now I have been out with a group friends and had a conversation that goes a little like this:

I thought that picture was so cute/funny/awful that Edith posted. Oh you’re not on Facebook are you Faye? Here take a look… (smart phone appears).

Or like this:

Did you read about Delilah’s nightmare with her doctor? Oh you’re not on facebook are you – let me tell you the story… (big discussion follows).

So I guess I’m not missing out. Or if I am, it’s only by being late to hear the news. Something I’m quite happy with. People do love to tell a story and I am now an even more willing audience 🙂

Less Pressure

The other thing I have noticed is the lack of pressure to like, comment, support, enthuse and applaud other people ALL THE TIME.

If you have close friends on facebook (and I have done this myself), you might feel a bit put out, or worried, that they haven’t commented on your latest status announcement that’s been up for 24 hours.

24 hours!! Where are they? Do they not approve?? Don’t they CARE?!?

If you’re not on facebook at all, no one gets offended that you don’t adore their new kitten the second they get it, agree that their landlord is an arse in the middle of a deposit-dispute, or congratulate them on their niece’s friend’s mum’s new painting sale.

It’s OK.

Happy them, happy you.

Wrapping Up

I’ve probably gone on about leaving facebook enough now – enough to bore you all to tears and incite stories of missing people being reunited and old sweethearts finding each other and getting married.

No, it’s not all bad.

No, I don’t think you should quit.

Not unless you want to 😉

I was surprised that in the end, after 6 years, facebook disappeared from my life silently – within 24 hours I wasn’t even thinking about it any more.

For all my fears – of whether I would be lonely, have to go back, miss out on things, whatever – none of it happened.

For me, life is better without it.

Quitting Facebook Part 3 – Lessons

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

quitting facebook

I learnt some interesting things during the process of leaving Facebook after 6 years of committed status updates.

Status updates are a record of your life

Those 6 years of updates are, on reflection, the best journal I have ever written. Unlike my private journal which tends to be mostly full of emotional angst and an ongoing analysis of my lifestyle, my facebook updates are a marker of events, comments, places visited, things people have said, funny things that have happened, and amazingly, many of my children’s firsts and lots of their little behaviour patterns that inevitably disappear as they grow older.

Reviewing everything I had written took me on a really meaningful journey back through my past, with lots of things to smile at and lots of moments that would otherwise have been forgotten. It is a priceless record.

After seeing how amazing it is to record data in this format (what I am doing in life, rather than writing pages about how I am feeling), I searched around for something I could use as a kind of private facebook, to continue recording things in the same way.

I had looked at Day One (for Mac and iOS) many times in the past, but wasn’t convinced I would use it, but now I had a job that it could do perfectly.

I downloaded it and have started writing the equivalent of status updates to myself. Whenever I would have shared something on facebook, I share it with Day One instead, knowing that over time I am building a wonderful record of what we are all up to. As it’s private I can also share things that I maybe wouldn’t have shared with my family and friends, and I can be truly honest without fear of judgement.

It has changed the way I view journaling, and it’s something that I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not exported all my data from facebook as part of quitting.

People are afraid to leave facebook

Every time I have seen someone for the first time since I quit, one of the first questions they ask is:

What’s all this about quitting facebook?!

So then I proceed to give them a handful of my reasons (I have lots, so I rotate them round, heh).

The most incredible thing is that every single person I have had this conversation with goes through the following steps:

  1. They nod in agreement with all my reasons for leaving.
  2. They provide several more reasons of their own why they don’t like facebook any more.
  3. Then they tell me why they can’t leave Facebook.

It’s been a fascinating insight into just how powerful the lure of social networking has become, with many people stating that they would feel like they are missing out if they couldn’t see X’s status updates.

So here’s a message for anyone who thinks they might miss out:

You won’t 🙂

People are not their status updates

I went to visit some old friends a week after leaving facebook and saw several people that I only get to see a couple of times a year. I had had a lot of contact with them on facebook and had seen dozens of photos of their families.

But what struck me was that despite seeing their photos, updates and all the things they were doing online, it was only by talking to them that I got an understanding of what they were really doing in life and how they were feeling generally. Whether they were stressed, tired, happy, busy, or just content, wasn’t possible to guage from their updates.

By talking to them in person I got a real feeling for their wellbeing.

And their wellbeing is what I care about, as they are among my oldest friends.

So maybe the biggest lesson I learnt is that snapshot statuses of even my closest friends are not who they are in real life.

And while facebook gives the illusion of friendship, I believe one-on-one communication is better, whether through email, by text or by phone. And the best communication of all comes from real, physical interaction. And spending time talking to the people you love and care about is the best way of maintaining friendships there is 🙂

Read the final instalment: Part 4 – Life after Facebook.

Quitting Facebook Part 2 – Social

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

quitting facebook

After extracting and deleting all my data (see Part 1), I wanted to ‘unfriend’ everyone before requesting deletion of my empty account.

I needed to warn people that I was going to cut them off, so I simply put up a status that said,

I am leaving facebook. It has been fun 🙂

Reactions were instant:

Why??

Are you ok hun?

Noooooo!

How come?

Hey, it took 30 years for us to get back in touch!

But I love reading your status updates!

I wish you luck and happiness in your life xxx.

You’ll be back.

Why why?

I was touched by the sudden influx of messages from people all wanting to know why I was going away.

And I wavered for a bit:

How was I going to keep in touch with these people?

Was I cutting myself off from them?

Losing friendships?

Actually, no.

Unfriending each person in turn gave me a chance to evaluate how much contact I had with that person and what I wanted to do going forward. All of the people on my facebook friends list were people I know in real life. Here’s how I went through the list:

  1. First off, I deleted a handful of ‘deactivated’ profiles. These people had already gone.
  2. Next I deleted the people that never used facebook, e.g. the ex-colleague that said hello in 2010, but who hadn’t posted much since. I didn’t bother to contact any of these.
  3. Next I deleted the people who used facebook regularly, but who I personally had very limited interaction with, e.g. old schoolfriends who I didn’t know well at school (but we had enjoyed nosing around each other’s lives for a while). Again, I didn’t bother to contact any of these.
  4. Next I removed my few family members. I know them all and speak to them regularly, so didn’t need to worry about losing them!
  5. Next I removed my true friends – people that I meet up with and see on a regular basis. These people I text and email and see regularly in person, so I had no need to worry about maintaining contact.
  6. This left a difficult category of people who I genuinely liked, and who I swapped comments and updates with regularly, but who I had little or no contact with outside of facebook. These were the hardest people to unfriend. In these cases I contacted each of them individually and we swapped email, twitter or linkedIn details where we had them. For example, my old university flatmate who lives in Canada, my best friend from primary school who lives the other side of the country, an old work colleague who has just had a baby. These people have lives full to the brim and are just as busy as we are, so yes, in some ways it will be sad that I won’t be seeing their pictures and updates any more. But I think I am marginally more likely to meet up with them at some future time if we are in one-to-one contact. And if I don’t, then I can accept that I can’t keep up with everyone and that maybe that little bit of extra time I was spending on facebook looking at their lives should go to strengthening the relationships I do maintain in real life.

You can still message people on facebook, even if you aren’t actually linked as friends, so once I’d sent off my messages I unfriended the last batch of people and I was almost done.

It was only later that day, when I sat down to read a couple of replies, and purely out of habit I clicked on News Feed, that I truly realized what a big change it was.

My news feed was empty.

There was no way for me to know what people were doing.

Unless I actually texted or called and asked, everybody had become invisible to me.

For a minute it seemed like I was cut off, in the dark, missing out…

I needed to know what was going on!

But I didn’t at all.

Immediately after that, came a feeling of what I think I can identify as relief.

I couldn’t see what people were up to. I didn’t need to know what everyone else was doing five times a day. I knew that when I spoke to them next I would probably be more attentive and ask more questions because I wouldn’t have seen a recent summary of their day in two lines.

With relief, I could see that I had done the right thing :-).

In Part 3 I’ll talk about the positive lessons that I have learnt from using (and then quitting) facebook and how I feel that leaving it has actually enhanced my social life, not limited it.

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